Race to Zero hits breakthrough built environment targets

By Climate Champions | October 26, 2021

Responsible for almost 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions, the built environment is fast becoming a driving force behind global climate change mitigation efforts.

The range of actors across the sector – from architects, engineers, construction companies to asset managers – have recognized their power to act by signing up in waves to the Race to Zero through which they have committed to achieve net zero carbon by 2050 at the latest. In the year leading up to COP26, the campaign has resulted in hundreds of companies globally committing to the Race to Zero, including:

  • $1.2 trillion real estate assets under management are part of Race to Zero.
  • Percentage of construction companies in the Race to Zero doubles in the two months prior to COP26.
  • Over 100 SME construction companies across 10 countries join Race to Zero.
  • 2030 Breakthrough reached as 20% of Architects and Engineers join the Race to Zero.

Race to Zero is the UN-backed, global campaign to rally leadership and support from all non-state actors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery. All members are committed to the same overarching goal: halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest. All companies and entities who have joined the Race to Zero are listed here.

Signatories are required to publish their action plans for delivering against their commitment on an annual basis. These acts send a clear signal from businesses to policymakers that the private sector is taking meaningful action on climate change. That they are investing in the low carbon solutions needed to move the dial and they require policymakers to put in place the regulations, guidance, and incentives to facilitate the transition.

For real estate assets under management, globally $1.16 trillion of property assets under management now have a net zero carbon commitment. This means that these real estate asset management companies will need to bring their property portfolio to net zero carbon across all scopes of emissions that relate to whole life carbon.

Within the built environment, construction companies lie in a sub-sector that is notably challenging to decarbonize. Nevertheless, the commitment from these parts of the sector is strong and growing despite the challenges. In fact, the percentage of construction companies signed up to the Race to Zero doubled in 2021. This effort from large businesses is reinforced by SME action. Over 100 SME construction companies from 10 different countries have made net zero carbon commitments through the SME Climate Hub.

The Race to Zero Campaign underpins the UN High-Level Climate Champions 2030 Breakthroughs Campaign. These breakthroughs are derived from the Climate Action Pathways, a set of comprehensive roadmaps to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement in line with 1.5°C across all sectors. They centre around breakthrough targets, which are the proportion of a sector that is signed up to the Race to Zero by COP26. This target is 20%. A number of built environment sub-sectors hit this breakthrough. Notably, in the month leading up to COP26, the 20% breakthrough target for global architects and engineers to join the Race to Zero was reached.

This momentum continues to ripple through the built environment. The Race to Zero is an umbrella campaign — driven by science — that aggregates credible, existing initiatives to become net zero, absolute zero, or climate positive from a range of leading networks and initiatives across the climate action community. These initiatives pave the way for a successful built environment specific day at COP26. The Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day will highlight the efforts made to commit to net zero carbon through the Race to Zero and outline key topics to be taken forward after COP26 to transition the built environment towards a resilient, zero carbon future.

“Winning the Race to Zero means prioritising net zero infrastructure and buildings. We celebrate further, faster climate action from cities and businesses, and expect the entire industry to transform at scale in a just and equitable way. Through deep collaboration, businesses and governments can ensure our sector delivers a safe and prosperous future for everyone, everywhere,” Cristina Gamboa, CEO, World Green Building Council.

“2021 has been the year of net zero carbon commitments. The built environment has seen a groundswell of companies of all sizes committing to achieve net zero carbon by 2050 at the latest, sending a clear signal to government that they are ready to invest in and drive this transition,” Nigel Topping, UK High-Level Climate Action Champion.

“The built environment is where life happens, it is where our homes, offices, and leisure centres are. With just under 40 percent of global emissions coming from the built environment, it is therefore central to driving meaningful action on climate change. Majid Al Futtaim has been dedicated to this cause through its Net Positive Strategy since 2017. We are proud to reaffirm our commitment by joining the Race to Zero, joining other industry leaders on delivering a net zero carbon future,” Ibrahim Al-Zubi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Majid Al Futtaim.  

“The importance of the Race to Zero campaign could not be clearer. Every sector of every community needs to take action now to decarbonise to limit global warming to 1.5˚C by 2050. For decades, SOM has promoted innovative design solutions to reduce the carbon impact of the building sector, which is responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions. We are proud to join the Race to Zero commitment, joining other global leaders on delivering a carbon-free future,” Kent Jackson, Partner, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM).

For members of the Race to Zero who have contributed to one of these targets, please following the hyperlinks below to download message cards to use in your social media or emails:

Cities

If the world’s 1 million municipalities were nature-positive, we could tackle climate change

In truth, most urban development today still harms nature. But designing, planning, building, renovating and managing cities with nature-positive interventions is arguably one of the most feasible approaches for tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, argues Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

VIEW MORE